World Malaria Day 2017

Much to celebrate

Each year on 25 April the global community comes together to commemorate World Malaria Day; celebrating progress made and highlighting areas for continued investment. The 2017 World Malaria Day Report released by the World Health Organization shows that scaled up prevention efforts (insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying of insecticides and prevention therapies for pregnant women and children) have worked in reducing the number of malaria cases and deaths globally. In Africa, the region most affected by malaria, cases fell by 21% and deaths by 31%.

This is good news for sustainable global development. Advances in malaria prevention have a positive impact on poverty reduction, improved food security, improved gender equality (as women and girls are freed up from looking after sick relatives and can participate more fully in the work force or remain in school) and economic development generally. Businesses also benefit through healthier and more productive workforces, reduced costs of doing business, enhanced reputation and increased competitiveness (

But it’s not over yet

Despite the progress discussed above malaria is still claiming the lives of many people in Africa (394 000 deaths in 2015, mostly young children) and causing havoc to development. The World Health Organisations says this is because many people in endemic low-income countries have no access to the tools that prevent, diagnose and treat malaria. Clearly there is still much work to be done to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring that malaria is eliminated as a public health threat by 2030.

This World Malaria Day we look at two companies from the SWHAP network who are doing their bit to prevent malaria and provide wider access to diagnosis. For the SWHAP partners, addressing malaria within the context of HIV and wellness programmes is also important as the disease has a negative impact on HIV, increasing viral load.

Sandvik Zambia: Equipping Peer Educators to conduct onsite Rapid Diagnostic Testing for malaria


Sandvik Zambia started its HIV programme in 2005 and has since implemented a comprehensive programme offering treatment, care and support for employees and their families. In recent years, the company developed a wellness strategy and policy addressing other health concerns faced by employees and the local community such as malaria.

Malaria is a major public health and development concern in Zambia affecting more than four million Zambians annually and accounting for 36% of hospitalisations and outpatient visits (

The challenge

Between August 2015 and July 2016, 17 employees at Sandvik were admitted to hospital because of malaria. As a consequence of the disease the company lost 384 work hours (equivalent to 48 days) as well as hospital claims in excess of US$4 000.


In response to the challenges posed by malaria on its workforce, Sandvik trained 10 Peer Educators on how to conduct and interpret malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs). The training was held in partnership with the Kitwe Central Hospital. The RDT uses the finger prick method with antigens showing the presence of malaria parasites in the blood. The tests are included as part of the regular biometric screening (glucose, temperature and blood pressure) that takes place at the workplace.

Objectives of the programme

  • To provide early and accurate diagnosis of malaria. This is important as it reduces the disease, prevents deaths and contributes to reduced malaria transmission within communities
  • To improve the health of the workforce


As a result of the training Peer Educators were able to conduct early tests for malaria at the workplace and refer people for early treatment. This has resulted in:

  • Reduction in hospital admissions. Between August and October 2016 Sandvik were able to report zero admissions due to malaria.
  • Reduction in lost work hours
  • Increased awareness on wellness.
  • Capacity building for Peer Educators
  • A happier workforce

Key success factors

  • The initiative is part of Sandvik’ s comprehensive workplace HIV and wellness programme, which includes other malaria prevention measures. The company distributes treated bed nets, runs regular awareness raising programmes, environmental clean-up campaigns (reduces concentration of larvae and mosquitoes), distributes insect repellent to employees on night shift and supports community testing projects.
  • Partnerships with the Ministry of Health through the Kitwe Central Hospital and the local District Health Office helped to provide the know-how, technical support, quality control and an outlet for disposal of medical waste.

Insecticide-treated mosquito net distribution programme

Ericsson DRC – Arming families with cost-effective tools for malaria diagnosis


Malaria is the principle cause of morbidity and mortality in the DRC. It is estimated that the country accounts for 11% of all Plasmodium falciparum (the most dangerous form of malaria) cases in sub-Saharan Africa ( The Government with support from international and local partners has made considerable progress in addressing malaria in the country but where 97% of the population lives in zones with stable transmission lasting 8-12 months of the year, eliminating malaria is quite a challenge. Additionally, the size of the country, infrastructural challenges, a struggling healthcare system with frequent drug stock-outs mean that access to health care in general and malaria prevention and treatment in particular is a challenge for most citizens.

The challenge

Malaria is a frequently recurring disease and cumulatively results in much lost work over time. Additionally, the disease most impacts those under the age of five resulting in employees taking time off work to look after dependants. During the process of establishing their workplace programme baseline Ericsson found that the they had a high incidence of malaria (12%).


The company wanted a comprehensive solution. So, in addition to organising sensitisation for employees on environmental sanitation, waste management, promotion of treated bed nets, and regular malaria screening they also trained the spouses of employees on how to conduct and interpret malaria RDTs at family level.

Training spouses in the use of malaria RDTs

Objectives of the programme

  • Improve the knowledge of Ericsson employees and their dependents on the means of diagnosing malaria
  • Raise awareness among Ericsson employees and their dependents on how malaria is transmitted and how it can be prevented
  • Provide access to better prevention and treatment for malaria for employees and their families
  • Encourage employees and their families to adopt better health seeking behaviors in the event of malaria.


  • Seven spouses were trained meaning seven families were facilitated to provide early diagnose for malaria.
  • The training also closed the gap in knowledge between spouses regarding the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and the importance of sanitation at household and community level in preventing malaria.

Lessons learnt

  • Malaria RDTs are an effective tool to diagnose malaria in resource-limited settings
  • Sanitation is an important factor in preventing mosquitos from breeding
  • The use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets is an effective tool for malaria prevention especially among young children
  • More awareness sessions are needed on malaria transmission, the life cycle of the mosquito and on the longevity of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

Key Success Factors

  • Strong partnerships with CIELS (the local business coalition) and PSI facilitated the exchange of technical support, supply of RDTs, and insecticide-treated mosquito nets at a subsided rate.
  • Management commitment and participation in the intervention motivated the employees to engage in malaria prevention efforts.
  • The general success of the programme at Ericsson DRC is due to the close collaboration between employees, union and management.

Rapid malaria testing for employees and their families at the Ericsson DRC wellness day


Related article

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World Health Day – Depression

Depression – World Health Day 2017

World Health Day observed on 7 April each year celebrates the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948.  Each year a theme is chosen to raise awareness on a specific public health concern. The theme for 2017 is “Depression: Let’s Talk.”

What is depression?

Depression affects more than 300 million people of all ages worldwide and it is the leading cause of disability. It is “an illness characterised by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that one normally enjoys, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks” (WHO). Depression is more common in people living with chronic conditions such as HIV; rates can be as high as 60%. It can result in non-adherence to treatment regimens and sometimes increases high-risk behaviours that transmit HIV infection to other people (

What are the symptoms of depression?

The symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between people but in general include:

  • Loss of energy
  • Change in appetite
  • Sleeping more or less
  • Anxiety
  • Reduced concentration
  • Indecisiveness
  • Restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide


People experiencing such symptoms on a daily basis for more than two weeks are advised to seek medical help.

Is depression curable?

Depression is curable with psychotherapy or antidepressant medication or a combination of these. In most African countries taboos against mental health disorders mean that many people are not diagnosed and do not get the help that they need. The theme for 2017 “Let’s Talk” reflects the stigma surrounding depression and mental health, and the need to bring it out in the open.

Why should the private sector be interested in addressing depression in the workplace?

Depression is not good for business. Recent research analysing the impact of depression on productivity in South Africa found that the illness costs the country more than US$17 billion a year in lost productivity with presenteeism (attending work while unwell) accounting for US$14 billion of this figure ( The results of the research make a persuasive argument for workplace wellness programmes to address mental health.

What can be done?

Within the SWHAP network mental health is addressed as one of the dimensions of wellness, with many workplaces raising awareness on the factors that impact psychological, emotional and mental wellbeing, and offering telephonic counselling services for employees.  These measures help to address the stigma around mental illness and create safe spaces where employees can seek confidential help. Supporting employee physical and mental wellbeing creates positive working environments where employees are more engaged, committed and productive.

 An example from Scania – The Happiness Project

In line with its regional wellness strategy Scania, in partnership with their service provider Reality Wellness Group, launched the Happiness Project in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia last year. The project was a nine-week campaign with various weekly challenges (for example, promoting gratitude, avoiding negative thoughts and influences, spending more quality time with friends and family) designed to help boost employee engagement and promote mental wellbeing at the workplace.

Prior to the campaign launch a management workshop was organised to ensure top level buy-in, after which Scania Happiness Ambassadors were trained to run the programme on the ground. Through a comprehensive communication campaign involving posters, banners and promotional items Scania made sure that all its employees were aware of the programme and the ways in which they could participate. Some of the challenges also involved the family of employees, helping to cultivate work-life balance.

At the end of the nine weeks a report was drafted for Scania highlighting the initiatives the employees engaged with most and identifying gaps in programming that needed to be addressed. The project was successful in engaging employees in wellness and promoting team work as reflected in a testimonial from the team in Botswana.

This is the ninth and final week for our project. On behalf of Scania Francistown branch, and my manager, we would like to thank you for this project – we are so grateful indeed. At first it was like a minor … thing but let me share with you all, in our second week I saw an improvement, a devoted team and everyone started enjoying being part of the project … We really enjoyed doing this project, it was fun, challenging but the most important thing – it brought us together as a team.

During the course of the campaign the different Scania sites were free to interpret the challenges as they saw fit. For the week three Gratitude Challenge, Richards Bay South Africa site manager Caralize Viljoen gave her team t-shirts on which they had to write three things that they were grateful for each day over the course of a week.








As part of their week four challenge “Spending time with Family” the Cape Town South Africa branch organised employees into interdepartmental teams which had to make communal sandwiches and share lunch.  This allowed employees to interact with colleagues from different departments: their work “family”.


The video below on depression.


Resources from the World Health Organization to help stimulate discussion on depression in your workplaces, communities and homes.

Read more

Is your employee suffering? Telltale signs of depression in the workplace